Predator community and researcher-induced impacts on nest success of Rio Grande wild turkeys in Texas
Authors: J. Z. Dreibelbis, J. D. Guthrie, R. J. Caveny, J. B. Hardin, N. J. Silvy, M. J. Peterson, B. A. Collier
Rio Grande wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) populations in Texas appear to be declining, and poor nest success could be contributing to the decline. Techniques to monitor nest success and predator impacts are necessary to make sound conservation decisions. We evaluated nest predator community structure and researcher-induced impacts on success of Rio Grande wild turkey nests and artificial nests at study sites located on the Edwards Plateau and South Texas Plains ecological regions of Texas. During the 2007 nesting season in the Edwards Plateau, we monitored 22 wild turkey nests with digital cameras and 20 without cameras. The presence of the digital camera did not result in higher nest failure rates. To simulate researcher impacts on nests, we compared predation rates of handled and unhandled artificial nests in 2007 and 2008. Predation rates were higher on handled nests in both years. Cameras placed at random, non-baited points captured photos of potential nest predators. Nest predator communities differed between study areas; avian predators were more frequent in the South Texas plains, whereas mammalian predators were more prevalent in the Edwards Plateau. Our results indicate that the presence of cameras alone did not impact wild turkey nests, but active human activities associated with nest surveillance may influence artificial nest failure. Moreover, nest predation could be, to some degree, a random occurrence depending on the nest predator’s search image and the predator community present.
Dreibelbis, J. Z., J. D. Guthrie, R. J. Caveny, J. B. Hardin, N. J. Silvy, M. J. Peterson, and B. A. Collier. 2011. Predator community and researcher-induced impacts on nest success of Rio Grande wild turkeys in Texas. Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium 10:235-242